Encouraging Progress: Technology advancements in the water and waste sector

Technology advancements in the water and waste sector

There has been a growing government focus on the water and waste sectors in recent years. A number of big-ticket programmes have been launched to bridge water supply gaps, improve access to clean drinking water, encourage water conservation and reuse, and develop a robust sewage infrastructure. Schemes such as the Jal Jeevan Mission, AMRUT 2.0 and the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) are progressing well and have opened up opportunities for private sector participation. That said, there is a need for greater penetration of digital and smart technologies in the sector to overcome various challenges and reduce human intervention. Industry experts comment on the key emerging digitalisation trends in the sector…

Abhaya Krishna Agarwal, Partner, Government Infrastructure, Strategy and Transaction, Ernst & Young

To achieve water resili­en­ce, digitalisation is one of the important pillars. To start with, digitalisation will help maintain a database of water- and wastewater-related as­sets, enable digital billing, provide tools for mo­ni­toring the quality and quantity of water, warning systems, etc. The emerging trends in this area revolve around:

. Conserving water resources
. Building resilience
. Efficiently managing water and sanitation ser­vices
. Strengthening enablers for water security, etc.

The trends may include connectivity, wherein customers can use apps to derive information on water quality; monitoring usage; technologies for pre-emptive and predictive maintenance in water infrastructure; digital solutions to address the in­undation of riverine and coastal infrastructure; smart metering; energy saving sensors; smart irrigation including satellite remote sensing-based irrigation monitoring and decision-making platforms; operational intelligence for water and wastewater utilities to reduce losses, assess network health and improve revenue; etc.

“Digitalisation will help maintain a database of water- and wastewater-related assets, enable digital
billing, and provide tools for monitoring the quality and quantity of water.” Abhaya Krishna Agarwal

Sourav Daspatnaik, Managing Director, Swach Environment Private Limited

The potential of such solutions depends on the push from key government programmes and the willingness of the executing agencies. In the urban space, GIS-based solutions, instrumentation in the area of metering, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), leak detection solutions, billing and customer grievance systems are some examples. There is a need for converting intermittent networks into 24×7 water networks with the conversion of networks into district metering areas. This will require refurbishment of the network to handle the electromagnetic or ultrasonic flow meters. Most Indian cities have high non-revenue water (NRW) and this is an area where last-mile connectivity and internet of things (IoT)-based metering will help in automated meter reading and accurate billing. Large metros will need to migrate from mechanical to automated meter reading (AMR) and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). In the area of emerging rural water schemes, gigawatt-level sensors, metering solutions, chlorine analysers, pressure sensors, remote terminal units, edge devices and energy sensors, and pump controllers can be used. However, one must be careful of digitalisation without proper infrastructure.


“Most Indian cities have high NRW and this is an area where last-mile connectivity and IoT-based metering will help in automated meter reading and accurate billing.” Sourav Daspatnaik

Arun Lakhani, Chairman and Managing Director, Vishvaraj Infrastructure Limited


The Digital India campaign is touching every sector in India. In the water and wastewater sector, SCADA is becoming an integral part of water supply as well as treatment projects. IoT is another technology gaining traction in water pro­jects. Online quality monitoring and online bill payments have become a norm for water uti­lities. Digitalisation is also helping improve distribution efficiency by way of automated valve operations using actuators. Under the Smart Cities Mission, many towns are implementing SCADA and automation.





“IoT is a key technology that is gaining traction in water projects.” Arun Lakhani

Subhash Sethi, Chairman, SPML Infra Limited

Smart solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help in smart asset management by analysing the pro­bability of failure in ageing infrastructure, there­by identifying areas that need improvement and repair. It helps in improving the life and efficiency of the asset through timely intervention. Automation and robotics help to fine-tune work processes for greater efficiency. Robotic lab analysers test two to three times more samples than human operators and allow analysis to be carried out round the clock. This helps keep a strict check on various parameters concerning the quality of water.

Adopting smart water solutions such as smart metering and smart leak detection would help in reducing NRW through real-time monitoring to ensure a sizeable reduction in transmission and distribution losses. Electronic instruments such as pressure and acoustic sensors, telemetry units and control systems connected wirelessly with cloud-based monitoring systems generate real-time information on leaks with accurate location details so that they can be detected in the distribution network quickly and precisely. Big data and analytics techniques help in harnessing the data coming from different sources and provide early indications in areas such as quality, abnormal consumption, reliable fault detection and optimised customer interactions. Drones can be used for efficient execution and monitoring. Smart end-to-end water networks offer the opportunity to improve productivity and efficiency while enhancing customer service.

“Adopting smart water solutions such as smart metering and smart leak detection would help in
reducing NRW.” Subhash Sethi